5 Interesting Things about Ireland’s Eye You Never Knew

Ireland’s Eye is an island off the East Coast of Ireland. It is closest to the seaside fishing village of Howth in County Dublin.

The island is small in size (around 0.22 km2) and is completely uninhabited today. Sitting not far from the shoreline, Ireland’s Eye has become a tremendous tourist attraction from Howth Village, with regular boats transporting visitors to and from the island daily.

And, while tourists and locals are more than familiar with the sight of the small rock jutting out of the icy blue waters not far from shore, little is in fact known about this mysterious island.

Here are 5 interesting things about Ireland’s Eye that you (probably) never knew!

Rock Climbing

ireland's-eye
Photo by Jonathan Ouimet on Unsplash

For all you adventurers out there, did you know that Ireland’s Eye is actually a rock climbing destination? And no, we don’t just mean lugging your own body weight up a rope to climb into the Martello Tower (see #3)!

The island has been long considered a destination for those looking to scale some terrain and a whopping 28 routes have been recorded across the island since the 1940s, although it is possible even more existed before this date. In fact, it is said adventurers have been exploring this territory for over a century!

Climbing only takes place on Ireland’s Eye outside of nesting season (see #2) which runs from April to July each year.

Death

ireland's-eye
Photo by Ravi Pinisetti on Unsplash

Tragically, Ireland’s Eye was also the site of a death. It is believed a woman named Sarah Maria Louisa Kirwan was killed on Ireland’s Eye in 1852. Her husband, a man named William Burke Kirwan, was charged with her murder.

Interestingly, however, Matthias McDonnell Bodkin – an Irish politician – claimed in Famous Irish Trials that this account is incorrect, and Kirwan died by a tragic drowning incident, not homicide.

Martello Tower & Church

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Most notably, an 8th-century church and a small Martello Tower (a defensive round fort, commonly built around coastal areas in centuries gone) dominate the landscape of Ireland’s Eye.

The church is the Church of the Three Sons of Nessan and was in use as the leading site of the Parish Church for prayer and practice as recently as a few hundred years ago.

Unfortunately, when the effort of shipping people to and from the island by boat for mass, the Parish was moved to a mainland site, which now resides in Howth Village.

Note: as mentioned in #5, island visitors can choose to enter the Martello Tower at their own risk. A rope hangs out of the entrance window that stands 5 metres above ground level.

Seabirds

ireland's-eye
Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash

Ireland’s Eye is the home to a large number of seabirds. In fact, thousands of birds flock to the island each year to mate and nest. Species include seagulls, razorbills, guillemots and fulmars.

Impressively, Ireland’s fifth largest colony of gannet can be found on Ireland’s Eye. Even Puffin’s (the cute beaked birds immortalised as the mascot for the book publisher, Puffin Books) breed on the island during mating season.

A word of warning: birds are incredibly territorial during nesting season. Remember to keep distance and do not try to get too close to nests which will be often exposed on the rock’s surface.

Name

date-in-howth
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The name of the island is a curious thing, too. Back in Ancient Celtic times, Ireland’s Eye was named Eria’s Island. Eria was a female name, but then it became confused with the other female name Erin. The name Erin derives from Éireann (which means Ireland in Irish).

When the Vikings came about, they chose to substitute the word “island” for “ey” which was reflective of their own language. This changed the name of the island to Erin’s Ey.

Over time, this became Ireland’s Eye. Before, the island was named Inis Faithlenn.

How to Get There

Ireland’s Eye is a popular tourist destination and can be accessed via a boat from the West Pier in the village of Howth. A company called Ireland’s Eye Ferries offer trips to and from the island every day (weather permitting) from 10.30am until 5pm.

You can either take a trip around the island for €10 for adults, and €5 for children, or land on Ireland’s Eye €15 for adults and €5 for children.

Top Tips

Appropriate footwear and waterproof clothing are advised. With Ireland’s changeable weather you never know when the rain will fall, so layers are ideal.

Some snacks, water, sunscreen (if you’re lucky!) and a camera are advised.

There are no amenities on Ireland’s Eye.